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Cricket: Knight in form to provide lifeline; Warwickshire (177 and 197-2) trail Leicestershire (523) by 149 runs with eight second-inning wickets remaining.

Byline: Brian Halford

Having garnered the grand total of one bonus point from this match, Warwickshire must fight like tigers today to at least prise out the cold comfort of another four for a draw.

For much of this fixture, Warwickshire have been outclassed. After allowing Leicestershire to pile up 523, they surrendered first-innings wickets with a series of wanton strokes yesterday to leave themselves a target of 346 to avoid an innings defeat.

Even taking into account the absence of injured batsmen Mark Wagh and Dominic Ostler, it was shabby work on a pitch offering some, but by no means, considerable assistance to bowlers.

The Bears have so far showed more resolution at the second attempt, led by an opening stand of 113 between Michael Powell and Nick Knight, but much work remains ahead if they are to avoid christening the Championship season with successive defeats.

Resuming yesterday on 36 for three, Warwickshire folded to a Leicestershire attack in which the lesser lights shone bright. To his surprise and delight, Michael Bevan's left-arm Chinamen earned three wickets.

Left-arm seamer Matt Whiley, whose first-class best before this match was one for 44, improved that statistic, helped by the Bears' reluctance to leave the ball outside off-stump, to three for 64.

Knight was first to fall, in curious fashion, in the day's fourth over. Easing forward in anticipation of a Bevan delivery drifting away to leg, Knight was anguished to see it turn sharply to bowl him behind his pads. Melvyn Betts drove Bevan to mid-off. Dougie Brown delivered a blow or two of defiance but edged a lifter from Whiley to first slip.

At 89 for six, the figure of 374, required to avoid the follow-on, appeared remote. Neil Smith attempted to attack his team out of trouble but slashed an unconvincing path to 24 before gloving Whiley to Neil Burns.

In successive overs just before lunch, the collapse accelerated as Keith Piper nicked behind and Ashley Giles hammered Carl Crowe to cover.

Shaun Pollock, as with the ball, appeared to be playing a different game to his team-mates. He passed 50 from 79 balls with 10 fours before being last to perish, in an attempt to swing Phillip DeFreitas to leg.

Warwickshire's batting had to be about 1,000 per cent better second time around and there was a big improvement as Powell and Knight posted 50 in 73 balls.

The captain was the more aggressive of the pair, if a bit fast and loose outside off-stump. He enjoyed a reprieve on 38 when Crowe, at gully, failed to clutch a stinging chance off Whiley.

Powell went on to pass 50 from 76 balls but progressed only to 67 from 111, before edging DeFreitas behind during a fine post-tea spell from the former England man.

Bell fenced to second slip but left-handers Knight (75 not out) and Jim Troughton escorted their side to the close in mature fashion in an unbroken partnership of 47 for the third wicket. They need to bat for some more sessions today.

CAPTION(S):

Warwickshire batsman Dougie Brown keeps Leicestershire fielder Darren Stephens on his toes as he hits out at Grace Road
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 11, 2002
Words:529
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